KOTA KINABALU: Outgoing PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan once again condemned former Barisan Nasional partner Upko for its “betrayal” in quitting the coalition.
In an emotional speech at the party’s 33rd annual congress here today, Pairin, who founded PBS in 1985, said the state government would have been under BN if Upko president Wilfred Madius Tangau had not led his assemblymen out of the former ruling coalition.
“Of course, we lost at the federal level but back home it was a draw. We, in BN, managed to establish a coalition with Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku Sabah (STAR) and formed the government.
“But all hopes were crushed when Upko betrayed us. The party president (Tangau), then still acting, took his YBs (elected representatives) to cross over and joined Warisan (and Pakatan Harapan). So, they became the government.
“To PBS, it was a betrayal by Upko. And they did this even after we signed the Presidential Council agreement, a partnership between three political parties, namely PBS, Upko and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS).
“After using the BN platform, manifesto and funds, Upko just deserted us like our past partnership meant nothing,” he said in front of about 1,500 party members.
Pairin, however, urged the members to remain loyal to PBS’ core struggles and rebuild.
‘Look to younger generation’
He said as the new government was considering lowering the voting age to 18, PBS should look at this positively, adding that the party needed to be attractive to the younger generation and it should act on this now.
“The struggle must go on. We must continue to fight for our rights, Sabah’s rights, and demand what is rightfully ours, as stipulated under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“We have strong, loyal and capable leaders to lead the party. In fact, in times of despair, our YBs did not even move an inch when BN collapsed. Yes, we left BN, but we did not lower our principles for our personal gain.
“We did not do what Upko did because we respected our voters’ wishes. We have made our stand, PBS has made its stand, and we will train young people to understand and respect our core struggles,” Pairin said.
PBS joined the BN in 1986 but left in 1990 and became an opposition state government. However, the party was welcomed back into the coalition in 2002 but left again following BN’s fall in the 14th general election.
Pairin reminded party members that being in the opposition was nothing new for PBS and urged them to remain loyal.
“We have been here before, on the opposition’s path, and yet, we pulled through and matured. PBS has lived through beauty and pain. Our journey was not always smooth, but all the bumps and challenges made us stronger.
“We may have lost some people who are not as strong-willed as us, but it’s fine. We are a party with dignity. In politics, principles are important, respect for one another glues us together,” he said.
He also called on the members to back incoming president Maximus Ongkili, who has been his deputy for 24 years.
“We have gone through a lot together and it was not hard for me to let go of the leadership because I believe I have trained him well.
“He is ready to shoulder all challenges, and I strongly believe he will help bring PBS to greater heights. Of course, this is possible if each and every one of you gives him your full support and cooperation,” Pairin said.
Ongkili won the president’s post unopposed.
The party polls will be held from Nov 15 to 17.